Every time someone leaves your company — whether by their choice or by yours — the space they leave in your organization is a company culture diagnostic opportunity.

You can expect there’ll be some neglected details that emerge… Projects started and not completed, and the like.

What you want to be on the lookout for are signs of broader systemic problems.

How to use an empty seat as a company culture diagnostic

Anytime someone leaves your company, new things come to light. You find things they’ve kept in drawers — both literal and figurative.

Do you have cockroaches?

The common temptation is to see the new information that emerges as a function of the person who’s left. The danger in seeing these things as isolated is that it overlooks the ways in which each person affects each other person.

Your culture is made up of the patterns of behaviors and attitudes across your company — for better and for worse.

If you like what you’re learning about the behaviors in your company that are showing themselves through the window of a departure, then you’re learning about ways you like your culture.

If you don’t like what you’re learning about what people have been doing, then you’re learning about faults in your culture that you want to fill in and reinforce. You’re learning about patterns of behavior that were tolerated. How? Why? Might the circumstances that allowed these behaviors still exist to tolerate them from others?

John Amaechi famously said, “A culture is defined by the worst behavior tolerated.”

 

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Intentionally creating an enduring, scalable culture where people and profits both thrive requires a system. If you’d like to think about what a system of culture would look like in your company, we can talk. Would you like help engineering the culture that’ll destine the business you dream of?